Each Moment Is A Treasure: In Memory of Jon McGowen

Seeing the play Hamilton with the original cast in New York was an extraordinary experience, and one that I repeated this past Sunday in Los Angeles.  However, this time, the lyrics in the song “It's Quiet Uptown” took on another meaning for me.


There are moments that the words don't reach

There is suffering too terrible to name

-  Lyrics from It's Quiet Uptown, Hamilton (listen to the full song here)


Early Sunday morning, I received the devastating news that we lost a very dear friend, Jon McGowen.

Jon was the embodiment of everything good, kind, generous, with an all-consuming love for his beautiful wife Laurrine and family.  He was discerning, tender, funny, and wickedly smart.  There has never been a more loyal, trusted friend than Jon.  His elegance and grit allowed him to navigate a challenging health journey without complaint or the slightest indication that he was suffering.  As a dear friend, he has left imprints on our souls.  Over the years Jon and I would share our cancer experiences and he would look at me with that knowing expression, “I get it.  I know how it feels to experience the depth of pain.”  He broke my rule of no visitors and came to the hospital at 5:30am before my Whipple surgery.  It was so easy to connect with him as a result of his authenticity.

Laurrine and Jon were more than a happily married couple.  They were inseparable; as soul mates, lovers, confidantes, trusted advisors, best friends.  As someone once said, “they were their everything.”

Any disease, cancer or illness is capricious, carving a hopscotching path of destruction that takes one and can spare another, destroy a family but leave another untouched.  My prayers were unanswered in not sparing the life of this dear friend.

Death is an equalizer; it causes you to reflect on life with a focused intensity and brings so many things to the forefront.  Pancreatic cancer has been my equalizer.  I see life through a different lens; I am more self-aware and what I know now for sure is the time that we have to be with people closest to us, is never enough.

I had no idea that for me, a devastating disease would be the gift that keeps on giving.  Any form of connection or act of kindness - a smile, hug, phone call, email, card - it illustrates in the simplest of ways, that I mean something to that someone.  Often these words are shared at a celebration of a life, when the person is not there to appreciate it.  How sad not to know or fully understand what you meant to that person.  Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of what you already have.  Knowing that we make a difference in someone else’s life is, in its purest form, the most beautiful gift and the true meaning of life.

Time goes by so fast.  People move in and out of your life so quickly.  You must never miss an opportunity to tell these people how much they mean to you.
— Frasier Crane, Cheers (the final episode)

Death has its own clock.  We need to constantly remind ourselves that each moment is a treasure, don’t take anything for granted.  I hope I am able to take solace that once I'm gone, I may come to occupy a small space in the hearts of the people who loved me most.  Perhaps from there I will be a simple reminder to them that time is limited, life is miraculous and we are all beautiful.  Let us not forget that we have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake. 

I hope you will live with intention, walk to the edge, listen to understand, practice wellness, play with abandon, laugh, choose with no regret, appreciate your friends and family, and tell them so, continue to learn and do what you love.  Live as if this is all there is.